‘Excellent’ grade dismissed

FE bosses have urged Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw to be cautious about creating an “excellent” Ofsted grade for college governors working in disadvantaged communities.

The education watchdog told FE Week that Sir Michael was interested in “exploring” a rating to top the ‘outstanding’ mark for leadership in colleges. He recently introduced the concept for governors working in underperforming schools.

But the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said ad hoc changes to the inspection system could be “confusing and destabilising”, while the Association of Colleges (AoC) said it was “concerned” that inspectors might not “recognise” pathways that were more than “just a quick fix” for providers in deprived areas.

Speaking to an Education select committee last month, Sir Michael said that a “good leader” helped to further teachers’ professional development by making sure that the right training programmes were available.

He said the watchdog was thinking of introducing a new excellent grade for leadership in “more difficult areas”.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of ASCL, said: “There is nothing wrong with recognising excellent leadership and governance but I question whether the inspection system is the most appropriate way.

“Ad hoc changes to the inspection system are confusing and destabilising, and make it impossible to compare year on year performance. What we need is continuity and coherence.”

AoC’s director of policy, Joy Mercer, agreed that leadership in colleges that faced difficult circumstances should be recognised.

However, she added: “We are concerned that Ofsted may not understand these challenges nor do its inspectors recognise pathways that are more than just a quick fix.

“We want Ofsted to acknowledge this determination to get the best for those who most need it. If it feels it can only recognise this with an additional grade, then so be it.”

“However, just giving credit to the most able leaders of learning through the current inspection process might do the trick too.”

The 157 Group welcomed the “focus on peer support across institutions to foster improved practice”.

Its executive director, Lynne Sedgmore, said the group had long been at the forefront of “thought leadership” and how outstanding leadership could impact on “outstanding teaching and learning”.

“Any move that places a focus on peer support across institutions to foster improved practice is to be welcomed,” she said.